Lawson says the unsayable


The significance of Nigel Lawson's intervention is not just that he has broken something of a Tory taboo by calling for Britain to quit; it's also that he is a former chancellor arguing essentially on economic grounds.

The EU, he claims, is hurting one of our most important industries - financial services - and, secure "within the warm embrace of the European single market", giving British businesses an excuse not to develop trade with the developing economies.

Awkward you might think for the prime minister, but today he was putting on a brave face, claiming that Lord Lawson had in fact helped highlight his pledge of an EU referendum if he is re-elected.

His backbenchers want him to promise a Commons vote on the issue before the next election, but there will be no such promise in the Queen's Speech tomorrow.

Like Labour's Harold Wilson, the man in charge the last time Britain had a referendum, David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe.

Lord Lawson said that would be as pointless in future as it had been then.

What was once unsayable by any senior Conservative has now been said. Which means the issue once described by the foreign secretary as a ticking bomb is ticking rather louder.

Mr Cameron once warned his party to stop obsessing about Europe. The call by a former Tory heavyweight for Britain to leave the EU has made that a forlorn hope.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    David Cameron is weak. The sooner we get out of the EU the's never worked and it's never going to work.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @ BTW

    Actually there are 501m in Europe (counting 62m in UK) so that would leave 439m EU, 57m UK, 5m NoBs (North of Border)

    Plus projected growth shows UK (73m) larger than Germany, France, Italy and (of course) Scotland

    Actually France will be bigger than Germany - there goes the Germanic influence you so desperately crave

    Repeat after me: Vive La France!

    Check facts before opening mouth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Lord Lawson would have been aware of the primary political objective of the EC developing into a Federal European Superstate during the 1970's.
    Mr.E.Powell effectively communicated these facts at the time.It is rather unfortunate that the political objectives with the known implications were not then fully evaluated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The issue wouldn't be a ticking time bomb for any party if politicians gave the electorate a chance to vote on it rather than lie/break promises and squirm as much as possible to protect their post-Westminster gravy train.

    The rest of EU want deeper integration not to pander to Cameron's domestic/party needs. Just get on with it and give us our debate/vote now or face being wiped at in 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    It would be sheer lunacy to take the slightest notice of old Nigel, now making a fortune lobbying for some of the world's biggest polluters.
    Some of the younger contributers may not have heard of Prof Walters.
    He was brought in by 'Ding Dong' to help clear up the 'mess' created by the former incompetent and reckless Tory chancellor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Leave or stay! - the issue is far more complicated.

    We MUST trade with Europe and we must do it effectively; however paying over the odds for the privilege and having to conform to all sorts of trading laws that make you uncompetitive with the rest of the world (unless you subsidise) is NOT the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    People seem to think that when we leave the EU, we will stop being European, stop trade, stop friendly relationships. There is no link between the two, The EU project is heading for disaster, lets help Europe by showing there is life after the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    So would the pro-eu brigade be against a NATO style political and economic union. If not,why not? Apply the same logic, if you can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Mr Lawson must visit countries like China - if he did he would see German, French, Italian vehicles. Lots of imports from EU countries including Britain. Trouble is you would have to look very carefully for the British ones as they hardly exist!
    Anything to do with the demise of manufacturing under Mr Lawson?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    The UK should leave the EU to benefit the same financial services industry that has created the largest structural deficit resulting in the largest debt in history. Not seeing how Lawson managed to justify dismissing 81% of the economy in favour of an ideological windmill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    BTW - name calling = lost argument. UK would not be in Europe so you might as well count China too!

    Or: UK=70m, Europe=600m + Scotland = 5m. You may be in neither.


    Multi-term Governments can change policies. Do you blame Labour for the Falklands? The Conservatives for Iraq?

    I was blaming New Labour, Newer Labour, Brown Labour. Just as, if Cameron wins the next one, I'll blame him!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Simply repeal 1972 EC Act.

    “I could not consent to the introduction into our national life of a device so alien to all our traditions as the referendum,” The Right Hon Clement Attlee MP British Primeminister 1945-1951 (Labour)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Thick tank

    There are approx. 600M in Europe, 60M in England!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    A referendum should be preceded by proof that voters know what they are talking about, anyone who can't explain the difference between the EU and the EC doesn't get their vote counted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    As an American who resided in the UK for 9 years and in Europe for a total of 43 years, I just love the UK's hatred of everything European. What does UK expect to do? Become star 51 on the US flag? Get over it, without Europe you are a lost cause. George Soros is eager to make billions more shorting the Pound.
    I say leave the EU, give Scotland the chance to join and take its oil riches along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Calm down a bit, I'm not accusing anyone of any of that stuff. I apologise if questioning whether the influence that Lawson is getting through the media is merited has caused you such periocobulations.

    Thinktank@26 - Labour and Tory policies over 4 decades helped build a bubble in the UK that couldnt withstand the economic crash of 2008. Blaming any one party or individual is daft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    David Cameron is trying to behave like a pork butcher quoting for a barmitzvah. It's all totally unreal and never going to happen. The prime minster might think he is going to get "a renegotiated settlement" but he keeps being told it's not on the cards. Mrs Merkel may sound all soft and sweet on occasions but she can't deliver. The likes of Barroso would go ape. He's ploughing on with his USE!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    @29 MGUK82

    To whom are you referring? Your one-time Business Studies teacher? Did he not have much experience running multi-billion budgets and dealing with multiple foreign powers then? Shame you didn't get a good teacher.

    @30 BTW
    With England out of the EU, how can Scotland (in it) outnumber the English in the UK? For you'll be the ones with Euros, Brussels, ESF & Shengen (if you're let in)

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Lawson is right; there is no point in negotiating with the EU because most of its members (notably France) want to head in the opposite direction…more protectionism & more regulation.

    And if the UK did leave, the pound would lose value which would offset a rise in tariffs. And if it didn’t fall we could cut ENI instead.

    The scare stories of Clegg et al are simply baseless

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Does anyone know if Lawson pays UK taxes? He would then be entitled to have a say.


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